Thursday, October 14, 2010

Cloche for Comfort

Four months ago, I wrote a post about my friend Jill who had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. At the time, Jill was just beginning her fight and had just held a kick-off party, inviting all her family and friends to garner our collective strength and to call forth Jill's warrior-within.

Immediately, Jill started a website on lotsahelpinghands in order to coordinate resources and information flow for her friends and family. She adopted a one-word battle slogan: Positivity and has used it as her mantra from day one.
Upon finding my lump back in April, I quickly learned that I don't have much or any control of what is happening to my body and I promised myself that the things I could control, I wanted to fully embrace. My positive attitude was the first thing I embraced that I knew I could control and wanted it to radiate from every ounce of me.
And radiate it has...from her Hair Cutting party where she celebrated her journey to baldness ("Bald is Beautiful" posters made by the kids hang all over her house)... to her willingness to document, share and honor this transformational journey.
I have never felt more love and support in one room and it filled my heart with such joy that I beamed the entire day. You will notice an ear to ear grin on my face and it has radiated from my face ever since. I was shaved first and I have to say that I ROCK THE BALD LOOK. I look amazing! I love the look and it exudes confidence and boldness and I feel empowered! The best part is that my children think I am beautiful and Jacob told me that he is so lucky to have such a beautiful mom that he would be proud to take me anywhere bald.
It's kind of unbelievable to consider this...but Jill is actually celebrating her time with cancer. And her openness, her willingness to share her story, and share it honestly, has been a gift to all who know her. I'll never forget how she let us all feel her lump so we would know exactly what it felt like should we encounter one in our own self exam.
Sharing my journey with my children has been the greatest gift I could ever have given them and an even greater gift to receive. My advice to all of you is to spend time with children and your life will be changed forever. I have been honest with the kids since the diagnosis and continue to tell them new things as they arise. They appreciate my honesty and authenticity and trust me because of that decision. They are less scared because they see me fighting with positivity and they see me winning. They also see me experience all different emotions and side effects and see me struggle, but they always see me persevere.

The other week, I was getting undressed to shower (thinking I was alone, I took off my shirt) and was looking at my new post-surgery body and not loving what I saw in the mirror - when Jacob walked in, he saw me looking at myself and said "your scars look like two big smiles!....that is SO cool!" I immediately started to notice the changes in my body as I continued to stare in the mirror. A smile soon replaced a disturbed, confused and saddened expression. Taller and more confident shoulders replaced a pounding and aching heart...and tears replaced my dry and empty eyes.

And she went on to say...
Recently, whenever Kaitlyn and I go outside (now that it's getting cooler) - she instinctively places her hands on my head to keep it warm. Then when we get back inside, she removes her hands and kisses my head. This routine happens every time we go outside and it fills my heart with such love, and once again - my heart sings with joy.

When she wrote jogged my memory and I remembered how cold my Mom's bald head had gotten in the Winter when she had lost her hair to chemotherapy.

I had made Mom a hat that she absolutely loved. Loved it because it was crocheted from the softest yarn ever invented, called Touch Me...

She used to tell me how good it felt against her bare skin so I knew I had to make one for Jill.

I didn't want to replace little Kaitlyn's hands but I knew that the poor little thing couldn't be with Mom all the time and it's starting to get cold.

I had gotten the pattern for free at my LYS, so I had to do a little sleuthing to track down the very talented designer to see if she could provide a link to the pattern. Because of its snug fit, and the super soft yarn, it is the best chemo cap ever. (Though that Touch Me yarn is expensive and you do need two balls...)

Well, I found her! Her name is Kellie Nuss, she has a beautiful blog and she has just been kind enough to make the pattern available for free over on Ravelry. There's also a direct link to download at the top of my blog sidebar.

At 4'10", Jill is pretty tiny and so is her head, so I cut out about 5 rows of Kellie's pattern to make it small enough.

Jill loved her hat and was delighted to be the model for Kellie's design. Jill's daughter Kaitlyn liked it too...

And so did Dani, who was quick to grab the hat...

And model it too.

Eventually, it landed back on Jill's head. Eventually.

It's amazing to witness Jill's fight. And to see, in action, the power of Positivity.
A few weeks before I found my lump, I read an article in a running magazine that peaked my interest. It was about how changing one word in your everyday speech could change your perspective and mood. The author wrote that saying "I get to" instead of saying, "I have to" or "I need to" would improve your attitude. I thought this was brilliant and decided to start making the change thoughout the day. It was amazing how my attitude changed when I would remember to make the change. Instead of saying, "I have to make dinner" or "I have to run errands", I would say, "I get to make dinner" and "I get to run errands." I didn't realize then what an impact that article would have in my life just a few weeks later when I got the diagnosis of breast cancer.

I am so glad I got to make Jill a hat.

And I can't leave without sharing this one last example of the transformational power of positive thinking...again, provided by Jill in her writings:

I recently found this passage and it is one of the positive ways I deal with my changing body. I hope it touches your heart as much as it touches mine.

• Recently, in a large French city, a poster featuring a young, thin and tan woman appeared in the window of a gym. It said:


A middle aged woman, whose physical characteristics did not match those of the woman on the poster, responded publicly to the question posed by the gym.

To Whom It May Concern:

Whales are always surrounded by friends (dolphins, sea lions, curious humans).. They have an active sex life, they get pregnant and have adorable baby whales. They have a wonderful time with dolphins stuffing themselves with shrimp. They play and swim in the seas, seeing wonderful places like Patagonia, the Barren Sea and the coral reefs of Polynesia . Whales are wonderful singers and have even recorded CDs. They are incredible creatures and virtually have no predators other than humans. They are loved, protected and admired by almost everyone in the world.

Mermaids don’t exist. If they did exist, they would be lining up outside the offices of psychoanalysts due to identity crisis. Fish or human? They don’t have a sex life because they kill men who get close to them not to mention how could they have sex? Therefore they don’t have kids either. Not to mention who wants to get close to a girl who smells like a fish store?

The choice is perfectly clear to me; I want to be a whale.

P.S. We are in an age when media puts into our heads the idea that only skinny people are beautiful, but I prefer to enjoy an ice cream with my kids, a good dinner with a man who makes me shiver and a piece of chocolate with my friends. With time we gain weight because we accumulate so much information and wisdom in our heads that when there is no more room it distributes out to the rest of our bodies. So we aren’t heavy, we are enormously cultured, educated and happy. Beginning today, when I look at my butt in the mirror I will think, ¨Good gosh, look how smart I am…¨

I am learning to love being a whale and being so smart!

Believe in Positivity!


Thank you Jill for allowing me to share your story. You are one of the healthiest people I know.


Maryanne said...

Beautiful! Jill for her bravery and you for sharing it with us.

coral-seas said...

I thought that we had agreed you would begin posts like this with "Warning: Carol-Anne do not read this at work".

During my lunch break I have tried to surpress giggles over one blog and then sniffed back tears over this one. My colleagues thing that I am having some kind of break down!

It doesn't really surprise me that Jill is facing this with courage and positivity. I think you and your friends lift each other up til each and every one of you sores like an eagle. What a wonder gift you are to each other.

Maureen said...

I just love Jill! What an inspiration she is.

Unknown said...

You are so sweet, Paula :-) xxoo

verobirdie said...

This is a great post, and a great lesson of life.

Mosaic Magpie said...

Jill's spirit and bravery...a shining example for us all. What a joy to see all those smiling faces in this post. Such a uplifting post. Thanks Susan!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful post - Jill is an amazing lady with a smile that lights up her face - thank you to both you and Jill for sharing such a positive and inspiring chapter in your lives.

Carol- Beads and Birds said...

I love Jill. She is giving such a great gift to her daughters!! OMGosh, she really IS beautiful bald. But heck, her inner beauty is just shining.

This is just a wonderful post.

a2susan said...

I laughed and cried at the same time reading this. Jill is a beautiful woman in every way, and her children are obviously wise souls.

Gerry Krueger said...

Thank you for sharing this inspirational post and good for Jill for being so positive... What an example... I am so glad you ended the post upbeat about the mermaid and the whale... Just the other day I notice the street name by my bank and was glad I didn't live there... Being a whale myself I wouldn't want to live on "Stout" street... Hugs Gerry...

Ingrid Mida said...

Dear Susan,
All your posts are inspiring but this one is the most extraordinary ever. I get to... is a phrase I'm going to adopt myself. What a gift you have given us by sharing Jill's story.
Now I get to cook dinner!
Have a lovely weekend.

Createology said...

This is an amazing story of braveness and courage. The positivity of her battle will be the key. You are such a loving and giving person to make this beautiful special hat to keep her warm. Prayers for Jill and her family. Thank you for sharing this heartwarming story!

Catherine said...

Thank you for continuing to share Jill's story.

Whoo-hoo for being a whale!!

Vicki Boster said...

This is one of the most touching stories related to breast cancer that I have ever read. Ladies like Jill are why we should be so proud to be women. She gives hope to all of us. There are heros and then there are HEROS - I will pray for her recovery and also that we could all find the courage to tackle this as she has done.

I cant believe I missed this wonderful post - I thought I was your follower - no matter - I am NOW!

I sent you an advanced email 2 days ago with those photos that I promised - I followed up with an email last night - but it was returned to me. Did you get those photos? Email me please!

Dees said...

This is so beautifull! I am so glad it is you who gets to be Jill's friend and gets to make her a hat... There wouldn't be any other friend who would! Bless you and Jill.

allie aller said...

What an honor for you, to be able to make this wonderful hat for someone of such lofty and beautiful stature.

Your friend has already WON this fight!!!

wendy said...

Thank you for sharing Jills story. What an inspiration! Thank You.

Radka said...

Wow, what a post, thank you:))

Cathy said...

What a special person Jill is (and what wonderful friends she has!). I’m so glad to hear she’s doing well, and I hope you will keep us updated about her status! The cloche is beautiful and I think it would be fun to have one with or without hair! Great, upbeat post. Hugs, Cathy

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